Written by SueAnn Francisco, MD
This coming April 16-23, 2016, National Infant Immunization Week will be celebrated here in the U.S. This is an annual observance to promote the benefits of immunizations, and to improve the health of children two years old or younger. In line with this observance, I have listed below some of the highlights of why the child immunization schedule is laid out as it is.
Why can’t my infant’s shots be spread over a longer period of time?
There are about 25 shots recommended in the first 15 months of life. A common question that is asked is why the shots can’t be spread over a longer period of time.
First of all, babies are the most at risk for severe disease and death, so we do not want to wait too long for them to go unprotected. It is important to get them vaccinated as soon as it is safe. Second, the recommended schedule has been researched thoroughly and designed to work best with a child’s immune system at certain ages and specific times. There is no research to show that a child would be equally protected with a different schedule and no scientific reason why spreading out the vaccines would be safer.
Is giving multiple shots at one visit overwhelming to a child’s immune system?
Another common question that is asked is if giving multiple shots at one visit overwhelming to a child’s immune system. Allow me to put this into perspective.
Vaccines contain antigens. Antigens prompt the body to create the immune response needed to protect against infection. These antigens make the vaccines work. These come in different forms depending on the type of vaccine that the child is getting. They can be weakened live viruses (MMR, chickenpox), killed viruses (polio, flu), partial viruses (hepatitis B) or partial bacteria (Hib, pneumococcal).
At any given combination of vaccines in the current schedule, a child is exposed to up to 150 antigens. Now, compare this to other antigen forms that children are exposed to everyday. They are exposed to anywhere between 2,000-6,000 antigens that they fight everyday just by playing, eating, and breathing. So the answer is, no. Children’s immune systems are not overwhelmed by vaccines.
Your child’s health and safety are very important to your child’s doctor
The schedule is considered the ideal schedule for healthy children and this schedule is evaluated yearly. Top disease experts and doctors who care for children work together to evaluate the immunization schedule based on the most recent scientific data available. Changes, if needed, are announced usually in January. This schedule is approved by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and the
American Academy of Family Physicians.